Why is French pronounciation so different from other Romance

Latin-Anglo-American   Mon Jun 12, 2006 5:00 pm GMT
... languages like Spanish and Italian?

I'm interested in learning the historical reason for the vastly different pronounciation of French vs. Spanish and Italian, which are pronounced almost the same. Where did the nasal aspect of French come from, and all the other differences? Is it simply Gallic-inflected Latin which made such a difference, or are there other factors? Did the Franks have an effect on modern French pronounciation? Anyone out there with an impressive linguistic background that can give me an answer?
Brennus   Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:29 pm GMT
The conventional theory is that after the Romans conquered Gaul they tried to teach the Gaulish natives Latin but they could never get them to speak it in Roman fashion (see Mario Pei "Story of Language" although he is not the only linguist who talks about this) . So, French is essentially a mixture of Latin words and Celtic speech sounds. A similar theory has been proposed by some linguists for Dutch - that it is basically a Low German dialect grafted onto a Celtic substratum.

It is conceivable that there is some kind of an Iberian (see Basques, Aquitanians, Picts, Etruscans) substratum in Spanish too but it probably is not as strong as the Cetic substratum on French. Spanish still sounds phonologically more like Italian than French does, and so does Romanian despite its numerous eastern European loanwords.
Latin-Anglo-American   Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:33 pm GMT
So as far as you know Brennus, the Frank's had absolutely no effect on French phonology? The Franks added 400 words to Gallo-Latin, and I always thought they impacted modern French pronounciation as well, being that they had Germanic accents. There could be a Frankish substratum as well, don't you agree?
Latin-Anglo-American   Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:36 pm GMT
Could you go into more detail about Mario Pei's explanation for me? I don't have access to his literary works.
Brennus   Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:43 pm GMT
The Franks contributed mostly names and vocabulary related to the feudal system to French just like the Visigoths did to Spanish and Portuguese. However, they don't seem to have had much influence on its phonology. Most linguists do consider the 'h' sound in French to be largely due to a Germanic influence cf. hache "ax", haie "hedge", hêtre "beech tree", hibou "owl" and haute "high" (an example of Latin 'altus' contaminated by Germanic 'hoch') but while it was pronounced in Old French, it is silent in modern French. At least, this is the conventional view shared by most Romance scholars and historical linguists.
Brennus   Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:50 pm GMT
Latin-Anglo-American

Hello. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of his book any longer but you can find it in most libraries, even many public libraries. Other Romance scholars have written about it too but you have to kind of dig for the information in the libraries. The internet now may have some good information on it.

Many of the same nasal sounds found in French are also found in Breton, a Celtic language. The uvular 'r' is found in both French and Breton but I read that this is a recent development dating only from the 17th century. The uvular 'r' sound has also spread to some German and Swedish dialects and to Danish. However, since it appeared late I don't think you can exactly say that French uvular 'r' is a Teutonic (Germanic) sound per se.
Latin-Anglo-American   Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:57 pm GMT
So why don't other Celtic languages like Welsh, or Irish, or Scottish Gaelic have that nasal sound? Was this something unique to continental Celts?
Brennus   Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:02 am GMT
They do. I still remember the late Richard Burton (a Welshman and Welsh nationalist) talking in an interview with "Look Magazine" about how Welsh was a marvelous tongue that could "out-nasalize French and out-gutteralize" German.
greg   Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:33 am GMT
Latin-Anglo-American : « So why don't other Celtic languages like Welsh, or Irish, or Scottish Gaelic have that nasal sound? Was this something unique to continental Celts? »

Nos cousins¹ lusitaniens ont des voyelles nasales aussi.

¹ Au sens linguistique.
Brennus   Tue Jun 13, 2006 5:43 am GMT
Re: "Nos cousins¹ lusitaniens ont des voyelles nasales aussi.

¹ Au sens linguistique." --- Greg

This has also been attributed to a pre-Roman substratum; most likely Celtic. The Halstatt Celts occupied a large part of the Iberian peninsula in the 7th century B.C.

Of course, the Portuguese (Lusitanians) have always been a maritime (seafaring) people and even in Roman times they had contacts with the Gallic cities of Nantes and Bordella (Bordeaux) which their landlubbing Spanish neighbors did not have.
Gringo   Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:27 pm GMT
««This has also been attributed to a pre-Roman substratum; most likely Celtic. The Halstatt Celts occupied a large part of the Iberian peninsula in the 7th century B.C. »»

I find several theories one of them, by Bosh Gimpera, says that
the first wave of Celts in Iberia happened around 900 BC and he linked it with the Urnfield Culture from southern Germany.

The second wave were groups of Hallstatt peoples from the Lower and Middle Rhine,that arrived between 650 and 570 BC via the western passes of the Pyrenees. He says the Belgae arrived in the Peninsula around 570 BC.


««Of course, the Portuguese (Lusitanians) have always been a maritime (seafaring) people and even in Roman times they had contacts with the Gallic cities of Nantes and Bordella (Bordeaux) which their landlubbing Spanish neighbors did not have.»»

The presence of Gauls in the northeast of “Spain” seems to have been very intense. It is thought that there were several infiltrations of groups of Gauls that came from the north of the Pyrenees.

As early as 214 and 212 BC Livius' says that Moenicoeptus and Vismarus,two reguli Gallorum allied with the Carthaginians (Spain), died in combat.

In the year 49 BC Caesar's, refers the arrival at his camp (Spain) of Gallic cavalrymen and Ruthenian archers with more than 6,000 men together with their servants, women and children. (Bell. ciu. 1, 51).
(Ruthenia was located in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Slovakia, Poland area)

It is not as simple as it seems. Spain had, like Portugal, much Celtic influence and had borders with Galia.
Latin-Anglo-American   Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:02 pm GMT
Could someone please provide a link where I could hear Irish, and Portuguese being spoken?

So we know for sure, that most likely, the nasal aspect of French arose from the Gallic accent?
radio   Tue Jun 13, 2006 11:49 pm GMT
Latin-Anglo-American   Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:06 am GMT
The link below is a series of audio clips of Celtic languages being spoken.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/history/sites/celts/pages/languages.shtml
Guest   Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:09 am GMT
Portuguese, Romanian, occitan and Catalan doesn't sound either to Italian and spanish. saying that all romance languages sounds the same except french is not true.